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Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Jeffrey S. Solochek writes about schools and education for the Tampa Bay Times. Solochek has covered the school districts in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties since joining the Times in 2000. He also oversees The Gradebook education blog.

Phone: (813) 909-4614


Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 16, 2017


    It's not all about the Legislature in Florida education news. We've seen a principal tell her staff to place all white children together in classes, a district ban D and F grades for its youngest students, and school board members say they welcome charter schools to help deal with crowding. Read all about it below.

    You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to

  2. Sides closer to contract agreement in Pasco County schools, union rep says


    Special magistrate recommendations in hand, representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco and the county school district met this week to determine whether they could reach a final agreement on pay and other outstanding issues.

    With significantly different interpretations of the district's finances coming from the two magistrates, the need for a compromise became more clear. The one who heard the school related personnel case sided more closely with USEP, while the officer who reviewed the teacher contract took the district's position....

    Pasco County school district and union officials continued to negotiate in December even after declaring impasse in contract talks.
  3. Gradebook podcast: Legislative trains, crowded schools, joyous classrooms and more


    With the Florida Legislative session nearing its end, lawmakers have begun creating education bill trains tying together tangentially related issues such as testing and recess, or school turnarounds and teacher bonuses. Reporter Jeff Solochek and editor Tom Tobin talk trains in today's podcast, along with a discussion on how school districts are coping with growth, and a few other education matters. [Photo link: Vimeo]...

  4. Florida education news: Testing, classroom efficiencies, religious expression and more


    TESTING: The Florida House moves its bill on state testing reforms closer to the Senate version, making compromise more likely.

    SEARCH FOR SAVINGS: A consultant recommends changes to Hillsborough County school classrooms to find efficiencies. • The Duval County School Board examines programs and departments for potential cuts, the Florida Times-Union reports....

  5. Religious liberties group files complaint against Hillsborough County teacher


    An Orlando-based religious liberties group has filed a complaint against a Hillsborough County high school teacher, accusing her of denying student rights to religious expression while promoting an LGBT agenda.

    In a letter to Hillsborough schools superintendent Jeff Eakins, the Liberty Counsel alleges that Riverview High math teacher Lora Jane Riedas barred at least three students from wearing Christian crosses on necklaces in her classroom, claiming they are "gang symbols."...

  6. Costs add up in Pasco County school attendance zone dispute


    Fighting a challenge to the School Board's recently adopted attendance maps did not come without its costs, and some of those could be passed to county taxpayers.

    The district received bills totaling $6,013.12 for Judge D.R. Alexander's time and travel to hear the cases, one for the west side and one for the east side.

    Chief finance officer Olga Swinson said she expected the district to fully cover the expenses, and not pass along the charge. Before paying, though, she sought board attorney Dennis Alfonso's advice....

  7. Florida House moves closer to Senate on changes to state testing system


    The Florida House took steps Thursday to bring its proposal for testing reform closer to the measure moving through the Senate.

    Rep. Manny Diaz, sponsor of the "Fewer Better Tests Act," tied several of the ideas from that bill into a separate effort to allow parents and others to see certain state tests after students take them....

    State Rep. Manny Diaz amends a bill on state testing Thursday to bring it closer to the Senate legislation on the issue.
  8. Florida education news: Recess, lawsuits, population growth and more


    CATCH THE TRAIN: Florida lawmakers begin amending key education bills to include priority issues, such as mandatory daily recess, as their spring session nears an end. More from the News Service of Florida....

    State Sen. Anitere Flores has added a mandatory recess provision to her testing bill, which is becoming train legislation.
  9. Pasco School Board members not thrilled with tax proposals related to impact fee plan


    A committee examining a Pasco County School Board request to increase impact fees on new homes has talked quite a bit about other sources of revenue instead.

    Members have asked for additional information on a sales tax or property tax increase to cover at least some of the costs associated with new schools made necessary because of growth. Tax revenue that pays for such projects would offset any impact fee. ...

    New homes in the Starkey Ranch subdivision and others have prompted calls for higher school impact fees.
  10. Lawyers outline venue arguments in Florida third-grade retention case


    A group of Florida parents that has taken its challenge of the state's third-grade retention laws to the state Supreme Court must convince the justices on narrow venue issues before they can get to the heart of the matter....

  11. Principal replaced at struggling West Zephyrhills Elementary School


    Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning has replaced the principal at West Zephyrhills Elementary School, hoping to stave off the need for a state-mandated improvement plan at the school.

    Scott Atkins, principal of A-rated Sand Pine Elementary for the past four years, will take over, effective June 1.

    Atkins will replace Charlene Tidd, who was transferred to an assistant principal post at Watergrass Elementary on April 3....

    Some parents are upset with Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning's decision to hold classes on Good Friday. [Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  12. Pasco County's West Zephyrhills Elementary School gets new principal


    Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning has replaced the principal West Zephyrhills Elementary School, hoping to stave off the need for a state-mandated improvement plan at the school.

    He picked Scott Atkins, principal of A-rated Sand Pine Elementary for the past four years, to take over effective June 1. He will replace Charlene Tidd, who was transferred to an assistant principal post at Watergrass Elementary two weeks ago....

    Sand Pine Elementary principal Scott Atkins, back right, will take over West Zephyrhills Elementary on June 1.
  13. Florida education news: 'Schools of choice,' teacher contracts, recess and more


    SCHOOLS OF HOPE: The Florida Senate offers an alternative to the House charter school proposal, offering extra help to struggling traditional schools first. More from Politico Florida....

    Sen. David Simmons has proposed new language to the House 'schools of hope' bill.
  14. Advisory committee continues review of proposal to increase Pasco County school impact fees


    A committee of Pasco County parents and home builders ruled out a couple of possible revenue sources, while asking for more information on others, during their ongoing review of the school district's request for increased impact fees.

    The School Board has asked the County Commission to nearly double the fees charged on new home construction, to support new schools made necessary by the growth....

    Pasco County's School Infrastructure Funding Committee meets Tuesday to discuss impact fees and other revenue options to support new school construction.
  15. Special magistrate sides with Pasco County school district over teacher pay, contract terms


    A special magistrate assigned to mediate a breakdown in contract talks between Pasco County teachers and the school district has taken the district's side in the two primary areas of annual contract guarantees and raise proposals.

    The magistrate recommended against the United School Employees of Pasco's longstanding effort to require the district to rehire any teacher on an annual contract who earned an evaluation rating of "effective" or better. ...

    The United School Employees of Pasco declared impasse in contract talks after a bargaining session in November 2016.